Advances in Language and Literary Studies ISSN: 2203-4714 www.alls.aiac.org.au

Analysis on Obama’s Eulogy for Mandela

Jingming Chen* School of Foreign Language, Pingxiang University, Pingxiang City, Jiangxi Province 337000, China Corresponding Author: Jingming Chen, E-mail: [email protected]


Article history This paper aims to analyse Obama’s eulogy for Mandela. After careful reading and analysis, the Received: October 09, 2018 eulogy was found to have met al. the requirements of an eulogy, such as the two expectations, Accepted: December 18, 2018 and five functions, which are the focus of the study of this paper. Meanwhile, the life story about Published: February 28, 2019 both Mandela and Obama have been briefly examined, and their similarity in their experience of Volume: 10 Issue: 1 a multiracial society explains Obama’s sympathy with Mandela’s life, and their common view Advance access: January 2019 on a multiracial society in which all the people can enjoy freedom, equality, and democracy, no matter what races they belong to.

Conflicts of interest: None Funding: None

Key words: Obama, Eulogy for Mandela, Discourse Analysis

A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE is mainly the history of White’s colonization AND THE LIFE OF on the Black and other colored people living in the country. MANDELA Under the influence of the idea of the white -suprema cy, and in order to intensify and ensure the benefit of the The Apartheid History of South Africa white people, and though some certain forms of segregation In Africa, before the European white colonizers came, there or apartheid has existed since the beginning of the colony, had already been the indigenous people who had lived there Apartheid was adopted as a formal policy by the South Afri- for thousands years. In Africa, the first or the earliest- liv can after the election of the National Party (NP) ing people were the San and Khoekhoe peoples (otherwise at the 1948 general election. according to the Apartheid pol- known individually as the Bushmen and Hottentots or Khoik- icy,all the colonized peoples in Africa must see them as an hoi; collectively called the Khoisan). Both were resident in inferior race, and, therefore, all of them must be separated the southern tip of the continent for thousands of years be- from the whites, must live separately in the poorer rural area. fore its written history began with the arrival of European For example, The Group Areas Acts of 1950 and 1986 forced seafarers. And these indigenous peoples had lived a very about 1.5 million Africans to move from cities to rural town- peaceful life, made a successful living by hunting, herding or ships, where they lived in abject poverty under repressive farming, and had been very harmonious with nature of that laws, and must not have the right to vote, for example, black continent. But all of such harmonious lives were suddenly voters were removed from the voter rolls in 1936. disturbed by that arrival of the European invaders beginning in 1652, when The Dutch East India Company landed the first European settlers on the Cape of Good . From that The Life of Mandela year, and especially after the year 1795 when the British ar- Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela18 – 5 December 2013) rived and occupied the Cape colony, the western white has was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political launched a long term of colonization of this South Africa leader, peace activist, and philanthropist who served as Pres- land. The white saw them as the human selected by the God, ident of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the coun- so they thought them superior to the indignant people, hence try’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully they believed they had the right to “lead” the black people representative democratic election. His government focused to a higher level of culture and civilization. So the history of on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institu-

Published by Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD. Copyright (c) the author(s). This is an open access article under CC BY license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/aiac.alls.v.10n.1p.73 74 ALLS 10(1):73-76 tionalised racism and fostering racial reconciliation. Ideo- months before Obama was born. (Ibid). But Obama’s parents logically an African nationalist and socialist, he served as divorced in March 1964 when his father Obama Sr. came President of the African National Congress(ANC) party back to Kenya where he had his third marriage. After that, from 1991 to 1997. In his Eulogistic Speech, Obama traced his mother married a Indonesian students who came from the course of Mandela’s life: from his childhood herding cat- Indonesian and studied in America. Two years later after tle to the legal training that shaped a liberation struggle as they married, his mother with him followed her Indonesian great as that of Mahatma and Martin Luther King Jr. husband to Indonesia where he studied at the local language He retold the story of Mandela’s trial in 1964, his decades (as school and elementary school from age six to ten, hence the long as 27years) in prison, and his astonishing presidency as ability to speak Indonesian fluently. When Obama was 11 in the great reconciler of a country few believed could ever heal 1971, he came back to Honolulu to live with his maternal from the violence and injustice of apartheid. So, Mandela grandparents. devoted his whole life to the fight against the reality of the So the family background of Obama is diversified and white’s repression and the apartheid, and to the emancipation extended one, just as Obama himself put it, “It’s like a lit- of the black people and other colored people in South Africa. tle mini-”, and he said. “I’ve got relatives For example, in 1952, Mandela as one of the major leaders, who look like Bernie Mac, and I’ve got relatives who look he organized and led the against apart- like . That is, Obama has a half sister from heid, and At a rally on 22 June, Mandela addressed his Indonesian stepfather, and seven half-siblings from his an assembled crowd of 10,000, initiating the campaign pro- Kenyan father. And Obama also has roots in Ireland; he tests, for which he was arrested and briefly interned in Mar- met with his Irish cousins in Moneygall in May 2011. the shall Square prison; the arrest and the famous Trial multi-racial background of his family background, together (1962-1964), after which he and other fellow activists were with his experiences of a variety of cultures in a climate of sentenced to life imprisonment on 12 , and in his mutual respect in Honolulu Hawaii, has became an integral 27 years’ prison life, he never stopped his fighting; and in part of his world view, and a basis for the values that he hold 1991, after his unconditional release from the prison by the most dear, which also shows the relationship and similarity newly elected president De Clerk, he, at the Cape City Hall, between him and Mandela in the view of the multiraces in gave the speech, declaring his commitment to peace and rec- a community or country. Obama, as introduced as “our very onciliation with the white minority. all of these events have son of the African soil” in Mandela’s service, said, built him as one of the great political figures in South Africa. “It is hard to eulogize any man,” Obama began, “to cap- Mandela was died on 5 December 2013, at the age of ture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, 95, accompanied by his family.The present president Zuma but the essential truth of a person – their private joys and sor- publicly announced his death on television,proclaiming ten rows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate days of national mourning, and on 10 December 2013 and someone’s soul.” at ’s FNB Stadium, the government held a And as most people know, during his quiet moments be- memorial service which about 90 representatives of foreign fore he ran up for the president, Obama hung several pho- states attended. By the time of his death, with his great- tos on the wall of his Senate office. Unlike other politicians ness in political career and his charismatic personality, with longer careers, the wall was not full of grinning photos such as high image consciousness,loyalty, inclusiveness,- of himself with other luminaries. Instead there were icon- simpleness, friendliness, and even a mischievous sense of ic photos of Gandhi, King, and Lincoln: the three historic humor, within South Africa Mandela was widely consid- figures that he cited in his Mandela eulogy. So we know, ered both “the ”and “the founding father that, from the very beginning, Obama has regarded Mandela of democracy”.Outside of South Africa, he was a “global and Gandhi, King, and Lincoln as his icons who share with icon”,with the scholar of South African studies Rita Bar- him the idea that all races should be equal, mutual-respected, nard describing him as “one of the most revered figures of peacefully co-existed in a society. Also from his early life our time”.(Ibid) when he was still a college student, he showed his sympathy with South African blacks and Mandela’s struggle, and his hatred of the Apartheid policy. For example, when he studied THE EARLY LIFE OF OBAMA, AND in Occidental college, he advocated the Occidental to par- ITS INFLUENCE REFLECTED IN THE ticipate in the disinvestment in South Africa in response to RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN OBAMA AND Apartheid in that country. MANDELA AND SOUTH AFRICA Though in his eulogy for Mandela, Obama doesn’t make Obama was born to a white mother and a black father. His comparison between them both as presidents and some spe- mother, Ann Dunham (1942–1995), was born in Wichita, cial figures in the world, the Mandela example of leadership Kansas; she was mostly of English descent,with some Ger- that Obama describes carries echoes of the style he has tried man, Irish, Scottish, Swiss, and Welsh ancestry.His fa- to adopt himself:(Richard Wolffe, 2013). ther, Sr. (1936–1982), was a married Luo “It was precisely because he could admit to imperfec- Kenyan man. Obama’s parents met in 1960 in a Russian tion – because he could be so full of good humor, even mis- language class at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where chief, despite the heavy burdens he carried – that we loved his father was a foreign student on a scholarship.The cou- him so,” Obama said. “He tells us what is possible not just ple married in Wailuku, Hawaii on , 1961, six in the pages of history books, but in our own lives as well.” Analysis on Obama’s Eulogy for Mandela 75

As we can know from the media, Obama warned from easy answers. reminds us that it always the outset of his presidential campaign that he was not a seems impossible until it is done. South Africa shows that is saint – not “a perfect vessel” as he put it. And In office, espe- true. South Africa shows we can change, that we can choose cially in the deeply troubled start of his second term, he has a world defined not by our differences, but by our common been more than ready to share publicly “his doubts and his hopes. We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by fears; his miscalculations along with his victories.” (Richard peace and justice and opportunity.”[ibid] Wolffe, 2013). “It is hard to eulogize any man,” Obama began, “to cap- As for political philosophy, Obama, as Mandela does, ture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, believe in the combination between the hope and power, but the essential truth of a person – their private joys and sor- or the relationship between what he called “struggle and rows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate shrewdness, and persistence and faith, which he adopted someone’s soul.”[ibid] from his earliest political career as the community organiz- “It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection er, when he rejected the model of the socialist radicals in – because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, favor of the inspiration of civil rights and liberation leaders despite the heavy burdens he carried – that we loved him like Gandhi, King and Mandela. He understood the power so,” Obama said. “He tells us what is possible not just in the of King’s dream and President Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights pages of history books, but in our own lives as well.”[ibid] laws, and tried to combine a sense of hope and the exercise “Given the sweep of his life, the scope of his accom- of power in his own career: plishments, the adoration that he so rightly earned, it’s “Mandela taught us the power of action, but he also tempting I think to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, taught us the power of ideas; the importance of reason and smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of less- arguments; the need to study not only those who you agree er men.”[ibid] with, but also those who you don’t agree with,” Obama ex- plained, before insisting that Mandela’s achievements were “chiseled into law and institutions.” FIVE FUNCTIONS The similarity between Obama and Mandela in their Obama Tried to Establish the Reality of Death to a multiracial experience and their common view on a equal Disbelieving Audience relationship between different races within a society, makes “It is hard to eulogize any man.How much harder to do so for Obama show great sympathy in Mandela’s death and his eu- a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in logy for Mandela is one of the most moving, influential in the process moved billions around the world.”[ibid] human history. The following parts will deal with the basic parts of a eulogy, with the aim to show their sympathy and “For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired their common ideal of a racially equal and free society. around the globe, ’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate a heroic life.”[ibid] “We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. TWO EXPECTATIONS IN THE EULOGY But let me say to the young people of Africa and the young In the stadium where more than 80 thousands South African people around the world -- you, too, can make his life’s work people and almost 90 leaders of foreign states were present, your own.”[ibid] Obama’s eulogy elicited the most exciting response from the audience. Obama’s speech adhered to the generic require- Obama Tried to Console the Audience by Arguing that ments of a eulogy, while it also incorporated aspects of the the Deceased “Lives On” in Some Capacity Through kategoria genre and apologia genre. Various Forms “To the people of South Africa -- people of every race and Obama Expressed Appropriate Personal and Audience walk of life -- the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Man- Grief dela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph “Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time was your triumph. Your dignity and your hope found expres- to celebrate a heroic life. But I believe it should also prompt sion in his life. And your freedom, your democracy is his in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regard- cherished legacy.”[ibid] less of our station or our circumstance, we must ask: How “We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. well have I applied his lessons in my own life? It’s a question But let me say to the young people of Africa and the young I ask myself, as a man and as a president.” people around the world -- you, too, can make his life’s work your own.”[ibid] “After this great liberator is laid to rest, and when we The President Obama Spent Significant Parts of his have returned to our cities and villages and rejoined our daily Speech to Deepen Appreciation and Respect for the routines, let us search for his strength. Let us search for his Deceased largeness of spirit somewhere inside of ourselves.”[ibid] “The questions we face today — how to promote equality “What a magnificent soul it was. We will miss him deep- and justice; how to uphold freedom and human rights; how ly. May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela. May God to end conflict and sectarian war — these things do not have bless the people of South Africa.”[ibid] 76 ALLS 10(1):73-76

“He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh Mandela as an icon” given the scope of Mandela’s and blood - a son and husband, a father and a friend. That is accomplishment, Obama tried to remind the audience that why we learned so much from him; that is why we can learn Mandela is not a saint, not a perfect man,which Mandela from him still.”[ibid] himself strongly refused, because he also has his doubts, By saying that “That is why we learned so much from fears and miscalculations along with his victories, and he is him; that is why we can learn from him still.” and “We will also a man made of flesh and blood, -- a son and a husband, miss him deeply.” Obama tried to identify Mandela with the a father and a friend. So here, Obama just tried to identify common people including the audience to console them that Mandela with their audience, even though Mandela is such Mandela is just the same as his people both physically and a phenomenal figure. And, moreover, he did not mention mentally, so the spiritual legacy of Mandela will be able to any religion and spirituality. All of these tend to be the ref- be transmitted to the following generations, if they are will- erents to help the audience deal with their own sense of ing to do so. mortality.

Obama Sought to Change the Relationship between the CONCLUSION Living and the Dead From Present to Past Tense Obama’s multicultural background of his family and his ear- “The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality ly life has shaped his view on a mulch-cultural society in or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and which all the races should be free, equal, mutually respect- moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less ed, and peacefully co-existed. Such a multicultural back- important. For around the world today, we still see children ground has also laid the foundation of his sympathy with suffering from hunger and disease. We still see run-down the black people in South Africa, and with Mandela’s strug- schools. We still see young people without prospects for the gle against the apartheid policy. In his eulogy for Mandela, future. Around the world today, men and women are still im- Obama highly praised Madela as the last great liberator of prisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted the 20th century, who has devoted his whole life to fight for for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they the emancipation of the black and all other colored people love. That is happening today.[ibid] from the oppression of the white’s government, and whose And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, life, accomplishment, and adoration, according to the words must act on behalf of peace.”[ibid] of Obama, has tempted him to remember Mandela as an Here, the speaker compares the present situation with the icon. This eulogy meets all the requirements of a eulogy. In past situation through changing the tense from the present the eulogy, Obama expressed his personal and the audience’s tense into past tense, resulting the change of the relationship grief for the loss of Mandela, but he also tried to console the between the living and the dead. audience and himself by saying that the freedom, the democ- racy achieved by Mandela and his people is the most cher- ished legacy of the country. At the end of the eulogy, after the Obama Reaffirmed a Sense of Identity for the praise, the grief, and after the reluctant acceptance of a great Community loss, Obama ends his eulogy with Mandela’s favorite poem, “And finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the hu- Invictus, which said: “ ‘I am the master of my fate. I am the man spirit. There is a word in South Africa -- Ubuntu -- a captain of my soul.’ What a magnificent soul it was. We will word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition miss him deeply.” that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for REFERENCES those around us.”[ibid] Richard, W. (2013). Obama’s Moving Eulogy for Nelson Mandela. http://www. msnbc. Com/msnbc/giant-history http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Mandela. Obama Helped the Audience Deal with Their Own http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama. Sense of Mortality http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/obamas-speech-at- “He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh mandela-memorial-mandela-taught-us-the-power-of- and blood -- a son and a husband, a father and a friend.”[ibid] action-but-also-ideas. Throughout his speech, Obama, though he himself http://www. foxnews.com/story/2007/08/31/text-prince-har- admitted it is a temping for him to “to remember Nelson ry-eulogy-for-princess.